Sport Neil Lennon and the anti-Celtic option that can shock Rangers and force a Steven Gerrard rethink

13:45  13 october  2020
13:45  13 october  2020 Source:   msn.com

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Steven Gerrard must address mentality and midfield problems, and Neil Lennon dare not slip up, as Celtic host Rangers on Sunday, writes Tom English. We'll get to what this game means to Lennon and Celtic in a minute, but let's dwell on Gerrard and Rangers for now.

You can make a compelling case that no single figure has been more important to Celtic's 21st century dominance than Neil Lennon.

The club icon has played a key role in delivering 11 league titles in total as a player, assistant to Gordon Strachan and as boss during two trophy-laden spells.

And here he is once again, standing on the brink of immortality as he targets rewriting the history books and delivering 10 In A Row to an expectant fanbase.

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CELTIC caretaker boss Neil Lennon should be dumped because Rangers are “breathing down their necks”. That is according to BBC pundit Garth Crooks, who thinks that Rangers will catch Celtic unless the Hoops appoint a ‘winner’ like the Gers have done with Gerrard .

Celtic "don't have a lot of time to waste" as they ponder whether Neil Lennon or someone else will be manager beyond the summer Two: is Hughton an option for Celtic ? The 53-cap former Republic of Ireland international has an impressive CV. Will Gerrard and Lennon be in opposition next season?

But the man who boasts a Celtic win record only bettered by Martin O'Neill in the club's 133-year history is staring down one of his biggest challenges to date.

His side are picking up points but they haven't been able to recapture their thrilling pre-lockdown form during a dramatic start to their Premiership title defence.

Neil Lennon standing next to a football ball © Craig Williamson/SNS Group

Rangers travel to Celtic Park on Saturday hell-bent on securing a vital victory in a season unlike any other with the hosts appearing in a state of vulnerability.

Their big-game build-up has been marred by Covid setbacks. Ryan Christie has been forced into self-isolation while Hatem Elhamed, Nir Bitton and Odsonne Edouard all recording positive tests

These fixtures are often decided by minuscule details even in non-pandemic times and both Lennon and Steven Gerrard will have to factor in how this typically white-hot fixture will play out without a crowd.

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Celtic hero Alan Stubbs thinks Rangers could beat Hoops boss Neil Lennon in the Scottish League Cup final, if Steven Gerrard tells his But, Gerrard ’s side have the capability to come out on top if they play a more attacking game, he said. Rangers and Celtic have reignited their historic rivalry this

CELTIC manager Neil Lennon insists he does not care about outmuscling Rangers in the transfer market and says that the Hoops will only focus on It’s a question of whittling it down: is this the right price, the right age and the right wage? “We have to filter that all down and have been agonising over

The visitors' game plan isn't much of a mystery, however, with the Liverpool icon likely to trust in the ethos that caused Lennon fits in the double-header last December.

An aggressive pressing style mixed with controlled possession caught Celtic on the hop but the Hoops somehow, some way, won the Betfred Cup before being outmuscled at Celtic Park during the 2-1 defeat.

a group of football players on a field: The row took place after Rangers beat Celtic at Parkhead in December 2019 © SNS Group The row took place after Rangers beat Celtic at Parkhead in December 2019

Rangers' first win at Parkhead in nine years counted for little in the end as they came apart at the seams during a dreadful post-winter break run before time was called on the 19/20 season.

But what can we expect this time around from Lennon and trusted lieutenant John Kennedy?.

The Hoops coaching staff will be confident they can find a remedy but there's no doubt Gerrard and his tactical guru Michael Beale have found an approach that works.

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Steven Gerrard slapped Neil Lennon ’s hand after Rangers ’ victory at Celtic Park (Picture: Getty). Many have questioned Gerrard ’s behaviour immediately after the full-time whistle as he slapped the hands of Celtic boss Neil Lennon and assistant John Kennedy before screaming down the lens of a

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Circumstance has now presented Celtic with a one-off chance to banish the 'thunder' Lennon revels in and opt to batten down the hatches when Rangers come knocking.

No fans means no pressure to conform to the expectation of taking the game to Gerrard's side on home turf.

Allowing Rangers to have the ball will certainly limit the Ibrox side's ability to hit on the counter attack while stopping the Hoops falling into familiar traps.

It's not in the Celtic boss' DNA to concede ground at Parkhead but Europa League wins over Rennes and Lazio are perfect examples of his side soaking up pressure before striking fast to leave their opponents reeling.

But the scars left by the Cluj, Copenhagen and Ferencvaros setbacks are still visible and Celtic also had no answers when Nikola Katic fired Rangers 2-1 up last December.

Lennon will be desperate to avoid a fifth big-game defeat on home turf over the past 15 months. Maybe now is the perfect time for pragmatism.

a group of people playing football on a field: Christopher Jullien celebrates with Kristoffer Ajer © SNS Group Christopher Jullien celebrates with Kristoffer Ajer

This isn't even a 3-5-2 vs 4-4-3 debate, either. Yes, choosing the right players in the right formation is key but it's about accepting Rangers' strengths and finding a solution.

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NEIL LENNON has accused Steven Gerrard of deflecting from Rangers ’ shameful disciplinary record – and hit out at the Ibrox manager’s claim that “What Steven should be talking about is the lack of discipline in his team. And the lack of discipline his players showed and lack of respect for the game.

The guys clash in a fiery video as they compare the recent fortunes of both Steven Gerrard and Neil Lennon . Most of the chat centres around the former

But one thing that has surely been on the forefront of Lennon's mind during the international break is how the current 3-5-2 doesn't look the same as one the one that wreaked havoc last season.

Lennon has questions to answer on who starts at the back but with the Israel pair out it appears likely that Christopher Jullien will play alongside Shane Duffy and Kris Ajer.

But whoever gets the nod, they will have their work cut out keeping in-form Ryan Kent at bay with the Ibrox playmaker taking his game to the next level this season.

Celtic get themselves in bother when teams press them high and they appear no longer are able to pass their way out of trouble - a key weakness that contributed to their string of high-profile defeats.

The remedy for that is going direct and breaking at speed and Celtic have a pair of jet-heeled options that could be vital.

Jeremie Frimpong appeared unstoppable before Gerrard triple-marked him back last December but the rampaging right wing-back has re-emerged as a key man.

The other is Patryk Kilmala. Sometimes a player's career at a club can be kickstarted by a singular moment and his deadly finish against St Johnstone came seconds after Liam Gordon's crude challenge should have wiped him out.

a man playing a game of football © SNS Group

The Poland U21 international has a can-do attitude and appears tailor-made to lead the line in games where Celtic aren't in total control. He thrives on space in behind the opposition.

But Edouard, Leigh Griffiths and Moi Elyounoussi are no slouches as the Hoops boss has plenty of options in the final third despite Christie's enforced absence.

Gerrard's side have become experts in the Europa League at exploiting teams with fast-moving breaks and clinical finishing but a more cautious Celtic can mitigate their rivals' greatest strength.

Changing things up on Saturday could catch Rangers cold and force them into a position where they are second guessing themselves ahead of future battles to come.

Lennon has always been bold manager, a boss willing to go after teams in the search for goal and victories.

But perhaps his most daring act would be to relinquish control during Saturday's showdown in a bid to flip the script leave and Rangers with more questions than answers.

Everything Celtic's European opponents have said since Neil Lennon took charge .
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